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Small and medium sized city regions


The research project aimed to identify what Aberdeen City and Aberdeenshire can learn from other successful small and medium sized city regions across the developed world. The research had three phases, each producing a research report: Review the economic performance of Aberdeen City and Shire to identify the criteria used to select comparator city regions; Investigate five comparator city regions to establish how their economies have developed and the contribution of policy interventions to economic transformation; Set out lessons that Aberdeen City and Shire can learn from its comparator regions, and identify where it might be useful for Aberdeen’s agencies to develop relationships with agencies in other cities.


The economic review phase of the research used a combination of desk research and consultations with key stakeholders from public sector and business representative organisations in the city region. Comparators were chosen using a weighted selection criteria, including scale, industry dependency and relative remoteness, that were measured using mainly quantitative sources. Larger weights were applied to scale and economic transition to reflect the importance of these criteria. Each comparator area was scored using Multi Criteria Analysis techniques. The economic performance of comparator regions was reviewed using statistical sources including Experian’s European Regional Service, publicly available policy and performance evidence, and consultations with economic development agencies in each case study region.


The research identifies issues and priorities facing Aberdeen City and Shire including: economic diversification into other energy and non-energy sectors; improving quality of life in the city; more coordinated innovation; more industrial development; and improving transport. The following five cities were chosen as comparators for the Aberdeen and Shire city region: Bristol – UK; Aarhus – Denmark; Stavanger - Norway; Calgary – Canada; Huntsville – USA. Fifteen lessons for Aberdeen city region were identified from the comparator regions, covering business base, people, infrastructure, quality of life and governance. Key lessons include: Economic success is predominantly market-driven, but there is still a role for the public sector in developing a regional innovation system; A multi-faceted approach to attracting skilled workers to the area; Free up the city centre for residential and leisure development; City centre investment across a broad range of activities (retail, office, cultural, sports); Long-term land-use planning that serves the needs of important local industries.


The research made a series of recommendations, relating its findings to the economic action plan published by Aberdeen City and Shire Economic Forum. Recommendations include: prioritise the needs of key industries in area strategies; develop a regional innovation partnership; develop a working group on university-business collaboration; create a 20 year investment plan for the city centre; and create a high level private sector executive group which influences public policy. The report calls for a partnership between universities, colleges and businesses to identity future industry skills and occupational needs and develop courses that will produce graduates to fill these needs. It recommends better use of Aberdeen’s waterfront as a place to live and work. Finally, it recommends that the Aberdeen City and Shire Economic Forum consider a branding approach for Aberdeen as part of a co-ordinated marketing approach.

Author Experian
Published Year 2010
Report Type Research
  • Sectors
  • Innovation
    Innovation system